Edinburgh set for starring role in 1930s Soviet Union thriller

James Norton as the title character in Gareth Jones, which has been filming in Ukraine and Poland. Picture: Contributed
James Norton as the title character in Gareth Jones, which has been filming in Ukraine and Poland. Picture: Contributed
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Edinburgh is set for another big-screen starring role after being lined up for extensive filming on a thriller about the British journalist who exposed the genocide-famine in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union.

It will provide the backdrop to a number of key scenes in Gareth Jones, which will relive his efforts to fight for the truth in the face of propaganda, denials and cover-ups.

The film, by Oscar-nominated Polish director Agniezska Holland, will explore how the reporter from the Western Mail newspaper in Wales uncovered an international conspiracy after setting out to interview Stalin.

The film will see James Norton, star of Happy Valley and McMafia, and Vanessa Kirby, best known for playing Princess Margaret in The Crown, play Jones and another British journalist he meets in Moscow who helps him uncover the oppression of the Stalin regime.

It will chart his “clandestine” mission to Ukraine to witness the atrocities of the man-made famine in 1933 which were thought to have claimed more than three million lives and his encounter with a young George Orwell, which would lead him to write Animal Farm.

Edinburgh is expected to be used as a location for the film, which is being supported by national arts agency Creative Scotland, within weeks after the cast and crew previously shot scenes in the Ukraine and Poland.

Holland said: “The script joins, in a very artistic and original way, a few issues from the 20th century which seem particularly valid today. Animal Farm links everything together – it reveals the mechanisms of totalitarian falsehood, and the terror that can be fought only by resistance to deception and violence.

“I’m always interested in politically charged subjects, but I’ve found most of them are pretty basic. My goal isn’t to make simple statements about the world. But this was different.

“The duty (of journalists) to search for the truth and pass it on to the world, and not to distort or manipulate it, and not to choose their own careers or well-being over the truth, is just as important in our times. In some ways, Gareth is a very contemporary hero.”

Rosie Ellison, manager of the Film Edinburgh commission, said: “We are very much looking forward to welcoming Oscar nominee Agnieszka Holland to film Gareth Jones and are working closely with the production team to turn the clock back to the 1930s in various parts of the city.”